The Friday 9/30/2022

Dennis Quaid: The Rookie

My piece for the Scarecrow blog this week, and etc.

Dennis Quaid interview (2002). (You’ll see why if you read it.)

Reminder that we re-start Scarecrow Academy on Saturday October 22 for an eight-week series of free online discussions about “The Art in Sci-Fi: Science Fiction and the Director.” These will happen on Saturday afternoons at 2 pm Pacific Time. Full schedule and registration possibilities coming soon.

On Tuesday, November 1st, I’ll be presenting “This Is the End: How the Movies Prepared Us for the Pandemic,” a free online talk in the Humanities Washington Speakers Bureau program. The talk is hosted by Sno-Isle Libraries. Info and registration here.

The Friday 9/23/2022

Robert Mitchum: The Night of the Hunter

I took the week off from contributing to the Scarecrow blog. But a couple of other bits:

We have a new episode of my radio show “The Music and the Movies,” this one the most self-indulgent session yet: It’s devoted to film music involving people named Robert. All I can say is that I was walking along wondering whether Robert Mitchum was the best movie Robert, and it dawned on me that this might be a good theme for a show. You decide, by listening at the Voice of Vashon website (and if that show has slipped away by the time you are reading this, there will be something else there).

There’s no link yet but calendars can be marked for the next installment of Scarecrow Academy, which will be Part 2 of our yearlong “The Art in Sci-Fi: Science Fiction and the Director” series. This free Zoom semester will kick off on Saturday, October 22, at 2 pm Pacific Time, and continue at the same time for eight weeks of sci-fi classics, old and new. Watch this space (and watch the skies).

Movie Diary 9/20/2022

Three Minutes: A Lengthening (Bianca Stigter, 2021). A man named David Kurtz shot three minutes of film footage in a Jewish neighborhood in a town in Poland in 1938. Discovered and restored just before it disintegrated decades later, the footage makes up 99.5 percent of what is onscreen for this 69-minute documentary. This is not a conventional documentary, in other words, and all the more memorable because of that. Helena Bonham Carter’s thoughtful narrator’s voice guides us through it, as the filmmaker’s grandson describes trying to find out who is in the footage and what happened to them; one survivor is around to comment on this scrap of history and the faces caught in a sunny moment before the catastrophe.

Movie Diary 9/19/2022

The Black Cat (Edgar G. Ulmer, 1934). Still a strange and stunning film. “Supernatural? Perhaps. Baloney? Perhaps not.”

American Matchmaker (Edgar G. Ulmer, 1940). One of the Yiddish films Ulmer made after splitting with the Hollywood big leagues, a low-budget screwball comedy with songs, about a bachelor who goes undercover as a matchmaker; ah, but playing with matches a boy can get burned (to borrow a lyric from a different musical), and his experience results in (you’ll never see this coming) finally finding someone for himself. Quite enjoyable, full of people who know how to bring the oomph. There are a few directing flourishes and in general a kind of good sense about how to frame all of this schmegegge.

The Friday 9/16/2022

My piece for the Scarecrow blog this week, and etc.

Notre Musique/Film Socialisme. “After all these years, Godard still has an unerring eye for a great shot.”

Scarecrow Video presents another free Zeitgeist ’22! online event tomorrow, Saturday 9/17, at 2 pm Pacific Time: Join us for “100 Years of Nosferatu,” where I will host a presentation about F.W. Murnau’s enduring vampire classic, released in 1922. Register here, and see you then.

We have a repeat episode of “The Music and the Movies” this week, on the subject of 1980s rock stars who composed movie soundtracks during the decade. Listen in on the Voice of Vashon website.

Movie Diary 9/14/2022

Descendant (Margaret Brown, 2022). Terrific documentary about an Alabama town where descendants of enslaved people brought to the area aboard a ship called the Clotilda hope to locate the wreck of the ship. Complicating the story is the fact that the Clotilda sailed long after the slave trade had been made illegal in the USA. And oh yes: The descendants of the slave traders still own a great deal of land and industry and influence in the area.

On the Divide (Maya Cueva, Leah Galant, 2021). Documentary set in McAllen, Texas, where a face-off between abortion providers and protestors turns into a study of three people involved in that world. The filmmakers gain intimate access into these lives, at times uncomfortably so, and the fact that the movie’s description of abortion rights is now a thing of the past is jolting.

Movie Diary 9/13/2022

Nosferatu the Vampyre (Werner Herzog, 1979). Hadn’t seen this since a screening at the University of Washington in ’79, and my memory of the thing wasn’t especially stellar. It’s better than I thought, but mostly in ways that are interesting rather than exciting. Bruno Ganz looks uncertain about why he’s here, and Isabelle Adjani is even more at sea than that. Klaus Kinski is clearly trying to generate sympathy for the vampire, and the movie’s most intriguing addition is a dialogue scene between Kinski and Adjani that establishes a doomy bond between them (though I prefer Murnau’s hints about this in the 1922 version). It’s up for discussion this Saturday when we convene a Scarecrow Zeitgeist ’22! discussion online at 2 pm Pacific Time; register here for that.

Horror Express (Eugenio Martin, 1972). Good set-up, plus Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing, and many exterior shots of a train rushing across a snowy route from Peking to Moscow. Too bad it disintegrates in the final half-hour (there is such a thing as too many killings in a mad-killer movie, it turns out). The explanation of what’s happening with a revived prehistoric creature running amok on the train is so daft it deserves a better film. Telly Savalas comes along toward the end, in a role tailor-made for Klaus Kinski.

Movie Diary 9/12/2022

Nosferatu (F. W. Murnau, 1922). Oh, it’s still great. And you’re invited to a free online talk I’m giving about this film, “100 Years of Nosferatu,” presented by Scarecrow Video this Saturday at 2 pm Pacific Time. Details and registration here, poster below.

The Friday 9/9/2022

Vicky Krieps, Hold Me Tight (Kino Lorber)

My piece for the Scarecrow blog this week, and etc.

Hold Me Tight. “The director, the indispensable French actor Mathieu Amalric, is very precise in his way of seeing, which suits a movie that can’t escape being vague about its reality.”

I have a new episode of “The Music and the Movies” this week, a look at the films of Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward, inspired by Ethan Hawke’s documentary series The Last Movie Stars. We have stuff from their shared projects, solo gigs, a little of Woodward’s narration on The Age of Innocence, and of course the theme from Exodus. Listen at the Voice of Vashon website; this episode will be online for ten days or so.

Scarecrow Video’s Zeitgeist ’22! series is returning on Saturday September 17 (that’s next Saturday!) at 2 pm Pacific Time, with an online presentation titled “100 Years of Nosferatu.” Join us for a look at how F.W. Murnau’s silent horror classic seems to have earned eternal life. The talk is free; here’s the link.

Movie Diary 9/6/2022

Navalny (Daniel Roher, 2022). The subject is vitally important, of course, and Alexei Navalny is a compelling figure: a showboat, a martyr, a droll comedian. The story of his poisoning has astonishing twists, including a sequence in which Navalny prank-calls one of his attempted murderers, who casually reveals details of the assassination plot. Still, it has to be said, firmly: The style of this kind of documentary, with its thundering music and hyped-up suspense, is frankly odious.